The Mombello Psychiatric Hospital existed in 19th century Milan. Over its operation, several unclaimed bodies of the patients were analyzed, dissected and mummified by an anatomist/doctor by the name of Paravicini.
These remains have been transferred to several different locations over the years. 


The mummies were preserved using submersion and injections with glycerin and formalin. The process would happen soon after death, in order to preserve circulation. This allowed for the corpses to stay intact for as long as they did. Then, the chemicals were added in order to stop the decomposition of the body.

The specimens included two full female bodies, one old and one young. There were also parts of bodies including a bust, half bust, head and face mask. All of these specimens were female.


Recently, scientific studies on the remains reported traces of cocaine, caffeine and nicitine were found in the hair of these mummies. This is interesting since it puts forth ideas of what life was like for these patients. It is hypothesised that caffeine was from coffee consumption ,which was common at the time.  Nicotine may or may not have come from first hand usage. Second hand smoke could be a potential cause. Lastly, cocaine was used to treat psychological illness in the 19th century.

Overall, this recent 2016 study shows that common modern day substances, such as caffeine and nicotine, were present during 19th century Milan. This discovery also gives light into some of the psychological treatments used during this time period


1) Musshoff, F., Fels, H., Carli, A., & Piombino-Mascali, D. (2017). The anatomical mummies of Mombello: detection of cocaine, nicotine, and caffeine in the hair of psychiatric patients of the early 20th century. Forensic Science International, 270, 20-24. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.11.011

2) Quigley, C. (2010). Modern mummies: the preservation of the human body in the twentieth century. Jefferson: McFarland & Company.

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